Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Fish of 2009

Indiana - December 29, 2009

Assuming I don't get out again, I've caught my last fish of 2009 this morning. It was a nice Steelhead from an Indiana creek. As usual, Al and I were walking into the woods just as the sun was peeking over the horizon.
Fishing was slow but I managed to land the only fish I hooked, not counting the dozen or more smolts I caught and released. The fish broke the line as I was reaching for him, but I was quick enough to get a hand under him and lift him out of the water before he got away from me. I set him down quickly in the snow and then found out the hard way that the memory card for the camera was still in the PC at home. My spare card was in my car, but we didn't have my car. That left me with only my cell phone to take the a couple photos before releasing the fish.

Al hooked 5 or 6 and landed 2. It was a tough day for both of us but still nice to be out despite the cold. The air temp was in the single digits when we left, and made it up to the low 20s according to what we heard on the radio on the way home. The wind chill stayed in the single digits all day. We had to put up with ice in the rod guides all day too. I kept chemical hand warmers in my gloves and that kept my hands warm enough to get through the day.

So with this probably being my last trip of the year, Happy New Year !

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fishing in the Snow

Indiana - December 22, 2009

Snow falling on the creek

Al Bernicky and I made yet another trip to Indiana for Steelhead. We were met there by Rich Delaney. This time it was snowing when we left and it kept snowing all day long. The snow made the creek very scenic. Before I ran off to my spot, I stopped to take a few photos of the snow settling on the trees and brush.

A Holiday Traveler

I got to my spot and began to set up both steelhead rods. I heard a faint noise in the water behind me and turned around to see an Otter coming out of the water and scampering up the bank into some downed trees. I couldn't get the camera out of the bag quick enough before he was deep in his hiding place. He played peek-a-boo a couple times before he was gone for good. Later on, Rich found me and told me he had seen it a little upstream from where I was still fishing.

There's an Otter in there somewhere

Fishing was painfully slow. If it wasn't for the snow enhancing the beauty of the creek, I would have given up a lot earlier. It took a few hours before I hooked my first fish on a spinner. It came up just enough for me to see it a was a good one and then broke off.

Al gets a fish close before it breaks off

Al showed up later on and hooked a massive fish. I was a little down stream so I grabbed the camera and raced over to him just in time for the fish to swim under a log and break off.

A difficult and dense trail

I stuck it out in that spot a while longer as did Rich. I saw his bobber go down as he was drifting bait, but he missed the fish. I briefly hooked another one later on before losing it almost immediately.

Rich waits for a fish to hit

After that I gave up. I found Al fishing near the entrance point and sure enough he tied into another good fish. This was his second hook-up of the day.

Al fights a big Steelhead

I got the camera out of the bag again and started shooting. I was able to get a few shots of the fish as it came up before it broke off.

Als fish comes up one last time before it breaks off

That was all it took for Al to call it quits too. Fishing was terrible, but we got to see the creek at it best thanks to the snow.

The one that got away

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Soggy Day at the Creek

Scenic spot on along the creek

My friend Al Bernicky and I made another trip to Indiana in search of Steelhead this morning. We parked and then headed off into the woods just before the sun was due to come up. We never saw the sun at all due to the clouds, mist, and light rain that was with us the entire day, and the rain made for a slippery trek through the brush to our spots.

I was armed with two new Steelhead rods which I had hoped would help me land more of the fish I hooked. Using Bass gear just isn't appropriate for those fish. You need at least a 9 foot rod, and the rod has to have plenty of give to absorb the shock when fighting those fish with 6 lb test line.

An Old Friend out fishing before the sun comes up

I got to my spot and was happy to find an old friend already fishing there. I first met my feathered friend several years ago and have been lucky enough to have him fish at my side a few times over the years.

http://www.catchphotorelease.com/greatblueheron1.htm - Click this link to see my friend as he was fishing (and begging) right at my side a few years ago!

I quickly got the camera out of my bag and took a couple photos. He turned around and let out a sound telling me he didn't like the flash. A couple years ago, this bird would stand right next to us and wait until we caught a smolt. He'd then bob his head up and down begging for it. On my first drift I caught a smolt and he approached me, but I put the fish back in the water. I don't want him to become dependent on people for his meals.

A short time later I hooked and lost a big fish. It jumped several times and in the excitement, my friend took off. I got the fish to the bank, and when I tried to grab it, it shook and the line snapped, then off it swam.

After a while I was joined by an older gentleman. He asked if he could share my spot and since there was plenty of room in that area I had no problem with it, and appreciated that he asked. I knew there were more fish down there too. I moved down a little ways and began throwing one of my homemade spinners. It didn't take long before I tied into a fish. This time I was able to land it and the other guy was kind enough to snap a couple photos with my camera before I released it.

My first Steelhead of the day

A short time after the guy left, I hooked another fish while drifting bait. This fish was bigger but I was able to land it without any trouble. I pulled the camera out of the bag and took a couple photos - only one of which turned out halfway decent since the filter I keep on the lens was now filthy.

Steelhead #2 about to be released

By the time I made it back to where Al was fishing, he had caught 5 and lost 1. One of the smaller fish he caught was kept for a meal. We decided we'd had enough and headed back to the truck and called it a day. We were both soaked, and I was covered with sand and mud since I had lost my footing a couple times, but at least I didn't wind up in the water or get hurt. And now I know not to wear those boots there anymore.

"Turn that darn flash off, you'll scare the fish"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Steelhead Fishing - December 8, 2009

Al and I headed for Indiana again.When we left it was dark, snowing, and a winter storm watch had been posted for the area. The snow made the creek very scenic, but the air warmed enough to melt most of it quickly and the precipitation changed to rain - but not before I caught a fish on my third cast.

Me with a Steelhead

Click to see very scenic photos of the creek during a Lake Effect Snow from 2004!
1 2 3

It wasn't a real big fish but it made me happy considering I had struck out the last two trips. For a few minutes I forgot about the snow and how cold my hands were starting to get.

A powerful run towards freedom

I placed the fish back in the water after a couple photos and it did a good job of splashing me as it took off for deeper water. I was already soaked from the snow that was quickly changing over to light rain.

A small bird follows me a long the creek

As I continued to fish, I kept hearing things in the brush all around me. At first I thought it was the wind, but that really hadn't started yet. I finally caught a glimpse of a small bird just a couple feet from me. He and his buddies seemed to be playing a game where they'd see how close they could get to me before I noticed them. Every time I'd turn, they'd take off only to return a moment later. Eventually they decided I was safe and followed me as I made my way through the brush along the creek.

More timber in the water

There were a lot more birds today than I've seen in a while. Several Cardinals were looking for and finding food, and even more Bluejays were yelling from the trees. Belted Kingfishers flew by often enough to tell there were a few of them and not just the same one making the rounds like they do at other places I fish.

A Cardinal finds a meal on a branch overhanging the creek.

The creek we were fishing is loaded with brush and snags. Just trying to find a spot to cast is also dangerous because of steep embankments, mud, and sticker bushes that make up the shoreline. One wrong step and you could be sliding down a 12 foot vertical drop into 10 or more feet of frigid water. You can kind of see in the picture at the top that I'm pretty high above the water, and if you look at the other side you can see the drop there too. The sticker bushes will grab any exposed skin so quality rain gear is a must to keep your clothes from getting ripped to shreds.

Downed trees in a narrow and shallow part of the creek

Al finally worked his way back to where I was. He had only caught one fish so far but mentioned he saw a huge King Salmon that failed to get the memo about swimming back out to the lake. He said it was very dark and had quite a hooked jaw. He couldn't get it to bite though. We knew the spot I was working was holding a few more fish so we continued to work it thoroughly. I finally hooked a big fish on a spinner. Al was fishing about 50 yards down and hurried over to help me land it. It finally came up just enough so we could see just how big it was and the spinner popped loose and came flying back right towards Al's face. He ducked and it lodged in the tree directly behind him.

The Steelhead won this battle

After a while, Al hooked a good fish and it broke him off. I had a few bumps from fish but didn't hook up with anything other than the two smolts I landed.

Al lands another one

A few minutes later, Al had another one on and was able to land it very quickly. It was about the same size as the one I had caught much earlier. After releasing it we continued hammering the spot.

Al lands the best fish of the day

Al hooked up again and landed the best fish of the day which put him at 3 for 4. At that point we decided we'd hit the road to try to beat the storm that was heading for us. By the time we got back it was raining pretty good, and as I write this it looks like a full force blizzard outside. Time to get the snow blower out of the shed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Everything you'd ever want to know about Asian and Bighead Carp

This hour long video does an excellent job explaining why the spread of Asian and Bighead Carp is a problem. It also examines short term and long term solutions to prevent their spread into the great lakes, and what happens if they become established there.

Here is a link to the original site:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another Steelhead Trip

Indiana - December 1, 2009

It was my turn to drive so Al Bernicky and I left my house at 6:00 am and headed for another creek in Indiana in search of Steelhead. It was only 33 degrees out when we left, but it was forecast to be sunny and in the upper 50s later in the day.

We got to the creek and on Als third cast I heard the familiar splash of a Steelhead thrashing. He had a nice one on.

Al battles the first Steelhead of the day

I was psyched. I took some pictures then took off for my favorite hole on that creek. I shouldn't have run off so fast because he caught another one a few casts later. I stopped at one spot on the way and hooked up on my first cast. Just as fast, the fish came off. I took a few more casts and continued my hike. I got to my spot and started casting. I continued casting. Then I cast some more. Then I started drifting bait. Nothing... A short time later, another guy shows up and catches a steelhead on a spinner just downstream from me. I was happy for him but really really frustrated at the fact that the creeks have been kicking my behind this year.

I moved on down stream to let the spot calm down and caught a couple smolts on the spinner, and another while drifting bait. Al eventually caught up to me as I got back to the spot. He had run out of bait and I had the car keys. He had also caught a few more fish and snapped pics with his phone. I left my gear with Al and hustled back to the car, retrieved the remaining bait and hustled back only to find Al battling another Steelhead. I knew they were down there.

Another Steelhead about to be landed

We both started using live bait and Al hooked up again. A short time later he had another brute on the banks.

A nice Indiana Steelhead

But that wasn't the end of it. He put one more on the shore in short order. He said he felt there was a good school of them down in that hole and was going to leave them for me. He stuck around and made sure I was doing everything he was doing but it didn't help. I finally tied on a jig and got a good bump but missed the fish.

Last fish of the day

We worked our way back towards where my truck was parked and didn't catch anything else. I stopped where Al had caught his first two fish and started tossing a jig. The area was loaded with smolts. We try not to catch them because they are what grow up into those mighty Steelhead we like to catch. I gave up after the forth smolt managed to hook himself and we called it a day. I went 0 for 1 and Al was 7 or 8 for 11. I'm not giving up yet. I've caught them before and I'll catch them again.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Des Plaines River - November 27, 2009

Chris and I headed to the Des Plaines River about mid morning. Unlike the past several day there wasn't a cloud in the sky so I wasn't expecting much in the way of fish. We got to our first spot and noticed a lot of Shad. We snagged several and some of the bigger ones hit the lures and were caught fair and square. It took a while but I finally managed to catch a couple Largemouth from that spot on a new crank bait I haven't thrown before.

Largemouth Bass

Shortly after we left that spot, we spotted a couple of Bald Eagles in a tree. Chris had never seen Eagles in the wild so it was a treat for him. I've seen more than I can count and it's still a treat for me every time. I stopped the boat and began taking pictures.

Bald Eagles

After a minute one took off, then the other. They flew a wide circle before landing back in the same tree.

Bald Eagle

We began throwing crank baits at our next spot. Again it took a while, but I put two Smallmouth in the boat.

Smallmouth Bass

We went on to a third spot and fishing was even slower. I hooked a big fish which I think was a Gar, and as Chris was standing ready with the net, it broke me off and took my new crank bait with it. I tied on another one and was ready to continue.

Red Squirrel

A short time later we noticed we had an audience from a tree that was hanging over the water. Chris managed to catch a Smallmouth while he was watching. We fished that spot a little longer but didn't catch anything else. As we were about finished, we saw the stangest looking bird. It looked like one of the rocks it was sitting between at the waters edge.

Camoflaged Bird

We stopped back at our first spot and I caught another Largemouth before we struck out at our last spot. None of the fish we caught were worth bragging about but it was nice to be out there. The air temp never got out of the 30s but the sun made it feel warmer. The water was still in the mid 50s. We made it back to my house and got the boat put away just as the sun set.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Indiana Creeks - November 23, 2009


The sun makes a brief appearance

My friend Al and his friend Tony picked me up before the glow of the sun was visible in the eastern sky. Our destination was somewhere in Indiana to chase Steelhead. On the way, we made a quick stop at a bait shop so Al could pick up some bait in case the fish weren't interested in his homemade spinners.

Lots of places to snag

There is a lot of submerged brush where we were and Al has designed a spinner that goes through it quite easily without getting hung up. I was using a similar spinner as well as some artificial bait that has been sitting in my garage for the past few years.

As soon as Al parked the truck, I grabbed my rods and headed for a spot where I'd caught fish in the past. I hooked a monster right away on the artificial bait but it broke off. A short time later I had a smolt on a spinner. After snagging and losing my spinner, I switched to one that Al had given me.

Al hooks one in "my spot"

I worked the spot for over an hour before Al showed up. He threw his bait in the water and his bobber disappeared right away. He set the hook and his pole was bent way over. Fish on. Big fish on.

After a short battle, Al landed the fish and then proceeded to land three more from the same spot. He hooked and lost a 4th. Prior to getting to that spot, he had caught three and lost another.

Al pulls another fish from a spot I had just beaten up pretty good

I followed Al and watched him catch another, then another, then another.

Another fish from the same spot where I hooked and lost a good fish

I think he landed 9 or 10 fish before we were done.

How is he going to get that fish over that tree? Watch and learn!

I went ahead of him as we were headed back and caught up with Tony. As I was throwing the spinner, I had a good hit and the fish went air born. He came down, took off up stream and broke off. That would have been right up there with the biggest Steelhead I'd ever caught.

Me going out on a limb - literally

I even walked out onto a tree to try to keep my lure from getting hung up in the brush around the shoreline, and also drift the bait into what looked like all the right places. As I was out there, Tony landed a few smolts. I also saw Al hook another monster fish that jumped 5 or 6 times before if got away.

Indiana DNR truck

We decided early on we'd keep a couple fish and wound up bringing three back to the truck. We didn't bring a cooler (they wouldn't have fit anyway) so we left the fish on the ground while Al and Tony went to look at one more spot.

I stayed back to watch the fish and an Indiana DNR person showed up. She looked over the fish, weighed and measured them, and was kind enough to provide a plastic garbage bag so we could transport the fish home without sliming up the back of the truck.

Three nice keepers

Once home, Bear helped me wash the fish and place them in a cooler, and then show them to a couple of the neighborhood kids (and parents) who like to fish. I had to admit that I did not catch them but went 0 for 2, but they were still excited to see such nice fish. Bear was excited too and wagged his tail as he sniffed each fish before it went into the cooler. I could tell he was thinking "Why didn't he take me?"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Another tough day on the Big Lake

Lake Michigan - November 9, 2009

US Army Corp of Engineers working on the lake

I hit Lake Michigan again on Monday the 9th. This time I took Al Bernicky with me. Al has been out there many times before, and caught countless Lake Trout, and other big fish out there. He is one of the best fishermen I know and knows several different ways to catch fish out there.

We had everything with us that has caught Lake Trout before out there including tubes, crank baits, spinners, dipseys, dodgers, spin-n-glows, and more... Nothing worked.

Al catches a Goby on the Dipsey-Dodger-Spin-n-Glow rig

We thought it was strange that no one else was out looking for Lake Trout. There was a north wind forecast, but the lake was calm with a southwest wind. We wondered if the wind forecast kept everyone away, or maybe the Lake Trout were done early. We saw a couple boats come out to do some perch fishing but all we saw them catch were small ones.

First Goby of the day

We decided we'd harass the Gobies. Gobies are very aggressive and will hit just about anything they think they can swallow. They are an invasive species and it is illegal to have live ones in your possession. We caught them on twister tails and 1/2 oz to 3/4 oz jig heads. Every time we'd get the jig near the bottom, we'd feel the fish attack. We lost count of how many caught.

Me with another Round Goby

I even caught a small perch. The big ones should start showing up soon.

A Yellow Perch

The wind turned around and began to blow out of the north. We started to see a few more Lake Trout on the surface so we quit messing around with the little fish and went back to trying to catch what we went out there for in the first place.

Round Goby

Despite the wind blowing straight out of the north, the lake remained fairly calm. I've been out there in years past when the wind has turned around and before I knew it, I'd be surrounded by 10 foot swells while I carefully made my way back to the mouth of Burns Ditch.

The North Wind beginning to add a slight chop to the water

Once we finished our last pass along the reef, we decided to call it a day. The highlight of the day was when Al spotted a giant King Salmon by the boat ramps. Too bad it had been dead for quite a while.